Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sunday Update - and Popcorn Tigers

A Round of Words in 80 Days Meets The Clarion Write-a-Thon

Wednesday Day 3 - artwork and some notes for the future
Thursday Day 4 - Ep 21
Friday Day 5 - rewrite Ep 4 for ebook
Saturday Day 6 - rewrite Eps 5-6 for ebook

Managed to do four episodes in four days, which was the goal.  I didn't do the artwork I wanted to do.

I also note that I don't feel the need to rewrite as much as I thought for the ebook version. There are a few places (so far) where I have "outtakes" I want to restore. And a few places where the prose is too tight.  Most of my energy is being spent on sorting out the best way to handle the upcoming complications.

The Blog Story Experiment - Changing My Life

I've tried to write this post twenty times.  So far it has turned into The Rambling Incoherent Post That Ate Toledo every time.  (Well, not completely incoherent - I probably have a few very nice individual posts mixed in.)

I seem to have gone from Popcorn Kittens to Popcorn Tigers.  Or something.

See, popcorn kittens is what happens when new opportunities crop up -- ideas and such go zinging around your head like, well, popcorn kittens.  But the thing about opportunities is that they change everythign.  They tear your world apart.  (You know, the song from Les Miz -- "the tigers come at night, with their voices soft as thunder"?  Like that, only positive.  Because they're Popcorn Tigers, not the Tigers of Oppression.)

I wrote that discovering indie publishing two years ago was like Joe Konrath took me by the arm and said "Duck, meet water."  It was like coming home.  Well, I was wrong. That was just a puddle.  That was the first shoe to drop.  The second shoe (the big pond, if we want to keep both metaphors going) finally dropped this summer with this web serial.

This has caused me to change my plans completely.

THIS is what I want to do with my life.  This is it.  It's the unified field of my life: publishing, web geekery, writing and dreaming -- putting an episode to bed, with  illustration and proper links and all that, twice a week.

You know how writers dream about holding the printed version of their book in their hand? Or looking in the TOC of a magazine and seeing their byline and title?  Well, I get that feeling of satisfaction twice a week now.

Seriously, last night I was looking at my bookshelves, and thinking about clearing out that last shelf of old magazines, and I realized that they were the copies of my own works.  And I thought "oh, uh, okay, I guess I should keep those."

I realized that those didn't actually mean that much to me any more.  I was more concerned about my old original editions of Mother Earth News than my ego-copies of my work.  And that was a weird feeling.

The Smile On The Face of the Tiger

"There once was a lady from Niger
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger
They came back from the ride
With the lady inside
and the smile on the face of the tiger"

The problem is that this is changing my life plan -- or at least my three-year writing plan.

I have a very good three-year plan.  I was going to concentrate on writing my two mystery series and getting a solid base for each series.  I've got people waiting for the next Mick and Casey.  (Not lots of people, but enough that I hear from them.)

That plan has a reasonable shot at making some income from writing.  It's an established business model.  It's sensible -- and it's not like it isn't fun too.

When I started this serial it was something fun to do over summer.  I was planning to go back to regular writing in the fall. Sure, I planned to continue posting a serial, but I would use this other story. One I've already written, and it wouldn't disrupt my sensible, well-thought-out plans.

That might be enough for me, and I still might do that.

But right now that tiger is whispering to me, and I'm thinking that this experiment -- with this story -- won't be done at the end of the summer.  I think I need to go a whole year on it.  Or at least through the end of this year.

What's wrong with this?  Why is the tiger smiling?

Well, first, this new plan is a whole flock of birds in the bush.  No, just the sound of birds in the bush. I don't even know if the birds are really there.  It could just be one of those noisy cat toys.

Since I started this serial, I have seen a record increase in blog traffic -- just raw numbers of views on my blog.  But I haven't seen an increase in subscriptions, and reader response has dropped -- fewer comments, fewer retweets.  Book sales have dropped to zero.

I have a theory -- only a theory, mind you -- that this serial is having more effect than it seems.

This is the time of year when internet traffic of all kinds drops.  Sales slump, comments stop - just as I've been experiencing.  And yet my blog traffic is increasing -- due to people clicking through multiple episodes, mainly.  The lack of comments is partly because writers (my regular audience) tend to comment to support each other, but readers read in private.  They don't want a dialog.

So maybe my writer audience is drifting off for the summer as usual, but they're being replaced by regular readers.  Which would be cool, but I can't tell until this has gone on for a little longer. Is it just another of those weird blips in network data?

I have another, larger theory, which is what I have been basing my strategy on for a while:

Readers can take a long time to get hooked on a story/characters -- especially with certain genres, or with totally off-genre work like I write.  It takes even longer for them to get hooked on an author sufficiently to try her other works.  This is why I wanted to write those foundation books for my mystery series -- so that if someone liked one book, they'd find a couple more books with the same characters.

But those books are slow to write.  Neither series likes to be rushed. I've learned that.  It will take years to gain any traction with them.

On the other hand, this serial does seem to be gaining a tiny bit of traction already.  (It makes sense that it would because the episodes each have a new chance to hook the reader -- there is time and volume involved.)  However, I won't know, can't know, if this actually is gaining traction until I let it go through a full cycle.  Let it run in fall and winter, when blog traffic is high.  See if people will buy the first book while the second story runs.

To stop at the end of this story would mean to lose momentum and never know what that momentum could bring.  (I do know, from experience from my other books, what it means to lose momentum.  It ain't pretty.)

So I'm going to continue with this serial, at least through the second story (The Case of the Misplaced Bomb, I think) this fall.  I'll see how that goes. Maybe I'll do a third in the series after that, maybe I'll take a break and start that other series for a while.

I won't stop working on my other books.  There should be time. It'll just be slower and lower priority.

So what else is new?

See you in the funny papers.


David Michael said...

I think life is most interesting when the little things suddenly take over. =)


PS It's possible that comments have dropped as much as from the really hard-to-read CAPTCHA as the summer slump...

alberta ross said...

oppotunitiies, skittish side turns, popcorn kittens all fun all worth the time - for who ever knows what is needed until they are tried - all the best:)

The Daring Novelist said...

David - Blogger changed the Catchpa this month? Bleh. (I didn't change it.) I like a catchpa better than having to approve comments.

The drop off has only happened in the past month or so -- which is what has happened every year, end of June, everything dries up.

Alberta - You're so right, you gotta try everything to find the best stuff.

Tracy McCusker said...

"What's wrong with this? Why is the tiger smiling?" -- that heading had me in stitches!

June/July seem to be the worst months for anything online. Everyone's off having summer plans, or weekend excursions. I kind of like the relaxed pace that the summer brings, so back I am again to the writing, the buckling down, and thinking in earnest about my next book.

I might be one of those vocal people about waiting for new Mick and Casey adventures... but any project that tugs your on hem is one that I'm excited for!

The Daring Novelist said...

Yeah, I feel really jazzed that I'm getting so much traffic right now. (And I'm really hoping it's not just that Google is accidentally counting too many bots -- but it was a gradual rise, so that seems natural.)

I do think that, in the fall, I should be able to get the next Mick and Casey done. Right now, with the writing challenges, I'm pushing to write or rewrite an episode a day, so I don't have much spare time, but after August 4, I'll just be doing the two episodes a week.

I have been tempted to see if I could do the Mick and Casey as a serial too -- which could be fun, except that it would give the story a different tone/voice/feel, and it would show in the book version.

Anonymous said...

I so enjoy your writing, Camille; following your blog is just a pleasure and always has been. I found you in the first round of ROW 80. Because you actually know what a serial is, it is so much fun to read about Mick and Casey but obviously, I would read you anyway.

The voice-recognition software might actually be able to save you some time if that is a consideration for you. Again, Dragon works differently for every writer but it does not require any kind of chronological writing.

Sounds to me as if you are reading your stats and your audience accurately so follow your heart as it always knows.


The Daring Novelist said...

Thanks, Karen (and Tracy): Mick and Casey should be making an appearance this fall of some sort.

As I'll mention in Wednesday's update, I think this new plan may actually free up some energy. It will slow my non-blog writing, but not necessarily as much as I fear.